Children of the atom, students of Computer Science, geeks misunderstood and stereotyped by the teachers and students they have sworn to protect, these are the strangest heroes of all! The Radioactive Anomaly Gang! (Still not catchy enough)
“What are we going to do?” Chris frightfully exhaled.
“We need Jaffa Cakes!” Steven decidedly advocated.
“I knew it was a good idea to have my exam before we eat! I have some in my bag!” Sophie triumphantly exclaimed before grimacing, tortured by the revolting spectrum of adverbial anomalies. “Make it stop!”
“Sophie,” Freya broke through her fellow student group associate’s distraction like an explorer wrestling through the serried density of vines hanging from the verdant canopy of the jungle roof, “increase the probability of Chris’ bag being open!”
“Shouldn’t be hard. Just need to increase it from being likely to bloody certain,” Sophie cheekily suggested, weighed down by the mass of her expletive, “there! Done it!”
“Steven, can you summon something towards you? Like using the force?” Freya asked. She’d taken charge like a mobile phone plugged in as its user slumbered.
“I don’t know. I’ll give it a go!” He furrowed his brow with the intensity and concentration of a hedgehog estimating how to cross a busy road. A bead of sweat ran down his face like lava through a pyroclastic flow. His eyes narrowed like a street in China Town, his pupils fixing on the now open bag. The Jaffa Cake box began to shake, the amber foil rattling, and then suddenly like a greyhound from its pen it burst out of the bag and blasted through the air towards Steven. Analeptically transported through the annals of history to the last time he’d played Dodge Ball, Steven instantly remembered how firstly useless and secondly terrified he was of catching anything. He coiled out of the way just in time for the box to completely miss him, flinging on towards Ali like a nuclear missile plummeting through the atmosphere. She saw it coming and allowed her powers to surge through her, leaping up at the speed of sound and grabbing the box of Jaffa Cakes out of midair with nothing more than her feet.
The others looked at her with a plethora of impressed faces.
She shrugged as best as she could, nonchalantly but cooly. “What can I say? I’m a woman of many talents. Are you ready, Chris?”
He nodded eagerly and opened his mouth wide.
She gave the box a shove at the speed of sound and a Jaffa Cake shot out, flipping through the air with infinite grace before it found Chris’ mouth. He bit down and there was a blinding flash of almost divine light. The treasury tags snapped, flinging green fabric in all directions. There was a loud clunk as something hit the floor, like an aeroplane smashing into a concrete floor but with less death and crushing metal. A cloud of trailing wisps cleared, revealing Captain Jaffa Cake stood, wearing a school uniform that was too small and carrying his Jaffa Cake shield. He swung it up and it smashed into the projector, destroying the AQME.
“Oh thank the bloody Lord for that!” Steven cried. “I might not be religious but I will go to church now if I must. Thank you God! Thank you!”
“Really, you should be thanking Freya.” Ali said.
“I was.” Steven shrugged. “Cap, think you can get us down?”
The Captain grew another Jaffa Cake and slung it through the air. It spun around and sliced through the treasury tags. His companions freed, he wandered over to the window and began to stare at the sky. Steven gave his wrists a rub and then picked up the fallen pamphlet on the housing estate. “This is her target. We need to go and stop her! Thousands of lives could be at risk!”
“Not really.” Ali said. “Everyone’s out at work or school.”
“This is the Dawson Estate we’re talking about.”
“Oh god. The adults are on benefits and the kids all skive. We need to go now!”
“We should get Mr Phillips first.” Freya said. “He’ll know what to do.”
“He’s on a course. Didn’t I tell you?” The Captain spoke. “No, we’ll have to go alone. Summoner, summon us an airship. Lucky Cat, increase the probability that our costumes are on board.”
“Any preference on the zeppelin’s name?”
“We’re taking down an English teacher in an airship? How about the Airy Word?” Captain Jaffa Cake grinned a heroic grin. “As for now, Radioactive Anomalies Assemble!”
He didn’t mind leading the kid he was meant to be mentoring, who went by the name of Maximilian, around with him but the other twenty nine currently following him to where the fence surrounding the school field met the road side were a little annoying. Especially if he was going to have to share the pizza he was illegally ordering with them.
The guy on the other side of the fence passed him the pizza box over the grey rail and accepted a rolled up tenner through one of the narrow gaps between bits of wire. “Have a good day.” The delivery guy said and then drove off.
Desmond turned and began to carry the pizza back across the field, thirty Year Sevens in tow. Max, who proudly walked in line with Desmond, was the epitome of all cuteness and Desmond used this to get himself into conversations with Year Eleven girls who, on the most part, couldn’t help but fall for Max’s wonderfully cute charm.
They were halfway across the field when Max raised one arm, the oversized sleeve falling back and revealing a hand that hadn’t seen the light of day in a very long time. He brushed back the curtain of hair in front of his face and his little nose furrowed up as he paid attention to the top of E-Block. “Is that an airship?” He asked, as a blimp suddenly exploded into life directly in front of them.
“No.” Desmond said, staring at the huge green balloon connected to a small red boat underneath. “It’s a funnily shaped cloud.”
All the Year Sevens shrugged and nodded. It was an easy mistake to make.
The Dawson Estate. A spot of brutalist architecture on an otherwise pleasant town’s face. The occupants hated each other, the outsiders hated the occupants and the Council sat in their seats on high, rubbing their hands together and waiting for it all to kick off so that they could go to the government and say, “Look! We do need a competent police force! We told you so!”
There was a swirling roar of propeller blades as the Antithetic began to float down towards the Estate. She didn’t quite mind the architecture; as a teacher she liked to think she practised brutalism in its purest form. It was the decoration of that architecture that sickened her. To see all those mispunctuated sentences, all those spellings mistake and, worst of all, the lines of text that weren’t quite straight, the ascenders and descenders of the letters disproportionate and scruffy… she shivered beneath the weight of her protective armour. It made her sick.
Propelled by the roaring fans sticking out in four directions from her back, she zoomed through the air towards the ground. She lifted the hoses from either side and flicked off the safety. Before her was a prime example of the monstrosities she hoped to eradicate. “Aimee wos hear,” the red spray red, the ascender on the ‘h’ wildly curving and the dot above the ‘i’ in ‘Aimee’ madly askew. She would blast this disgusting display of WWW, SP, P and ? from the face of the Earth.
Like a gunslinger, she pressed softly on the triggers of her hoses, got a feel for the power and raised them. Just as she was about to fire when a small kitten jumped in front of her. Being a human being, and thus vulnerable to the charms of anything small and adorable, she knelt down and reached out to it. Its name tag was almost bigger than it. She read the name and grimaced. Miss Cat, was the kitten’s proper name, but whichever imbecile had written the tag had spelt it incorrectly as ‘Mizz Kat.’ Ridiculous!
Standing, she aimed her hoses once more, but now at the cat. “Good King of Cats, I want nothing but one of your nine lives!” She prattled. “Look upon thy death.”
A huge shadow fell over the wall, the kitten and the Antithetic. Sighing, she turned slowly to see whatever the hell it was now. She completed her turn and frowned. She hadn’t been expecting that.
A blimp hung in the mid air, composed of a huge green envelope holding up a small red gondola. Speakers hung from the bottom and out of them boomed a voice. “Rebellious subject! Enemy to peace! Throw your mistempered weapon to the ground and hear the sentence of your moved Student Leadership Team elective.”
Inside the Airy Word, that is to say inside the Blimp, Captain Jaffa Cake looked over at the Summoner and raised his eyebrows. “Really?”
“It was either that or a Blood Brothers quote and I don’t think I’m allowed to use those because they’re rude.” The Summoner shrugged.
“But you got the quote wrong!” Tempus cried from the back. “There’s the whole bit about purple fountains before anything to do with mistempered weapons!”
“You do it if you know what you’re on about so much! God, you know what I don’t get? Why is everyone a flipping critic nowadays? Bloody annoying, isn’t it? Anyway,” he picked the microphone up, the curly wire hanging down, and announced, “Antithetic, this is your chance to surrender. You know not what you do. Calm yourselves and hand yourself in. We will protect you if you do.”
Being a teacher, Mrs Carpenter had the ability to shout rather loudly and it was for this reason that the Gang could hear her reply from the Blimp. I swear. It’s not just lazy writing. “Protected by you? Are there no prisons?”
“There is a institute for the mentally insane.” Sophie responded, momentarily taking the microphone. “Although, considering that you and Mr Jordan would both be there, we should probably start calling it the Staffroom.”
“We already do, don’t we?” Steven grinned, to a disapproving frown from Sophie. “Anyway, Antithetic. Surrender! Please.”
“Then we will have to stop you.” Captain Jaffa Cake announced.
“Good.” The Antithetic spoke, raising her hoses. “I am for you.”
Before the Antithetic could even consider what was going on, a purple flash had struck towards her, first rescuing the kitten and depositing it in an otherwise safe area and then racing back towards the English Teacher. The sudden explosion of energy as the Flish raced past caused her to accidentally pull the trigger on her hose. The highlighter fluid soared through the air in a bold arc and hit the Airy Word. There was a sudden roaring explosion as the Francium found the Oxygen in the air. The blimp was thrown through the air, a gigantic hole tearing in the hull. The Summoner was thrown straight out, his cape swooping behind him but not helping him in any way. Captain Jaffa Cake found himself smashing through the windscreen. He just managed to grab hold of the window frame before he flew straight out. Lucky Cat and Tempus were thrown towards the rear of the ship, Lucky Cat tripping and smashing into the emergency exit which opened immediately. Tempus watched in horror, realising she was the only one would could save her friends.
The Flish exploded past the Antithetic on the ground, tearing the canister of highlighter fluid straight off her back. At the speed of sound, she disappeared in the direction of Manchester, which was apparently too far for any teenagers to be trusted to go to on their own. Despite having to travel one hundred and thirty kilometres, at the speed she was travelling she made it there and back again in thirty eight seconds. And a bit.
Meanwhile, at the Dawson Estate, Tempus threw her hands out and froze time. She knew she couldn’t hold it for long so she had to make the most of the time she had. She ran towards the emergency cupboard on the side and pulled out two parachutes. Having pulled one on for herself, she ran over to Captain Jaffa Cake and strapped one on to him too. She pushed him out and jumped after him, then unpaused time.
The Blimp rolled and thundered and then crashed into the conveniently placed local pond, joining a suitcase full of drugs, the remains of little girl’s trainer and an abandoned trolley. A group of ducks looked at it, unimpressed.
Tempus splayed her palms and froze the Summoner and Lucky Cat in the air, a new branch of her abilities she’d been experimenting with since it had become relevant to the plot. Her two classmates froze and she was able to safely land alongside Captain Jaffa Cake who, being the hero he was, knew exactly how to operate a parachute. They both landed at the end of the alley way, the Flish materialising next to them. She bent over, breathing in and out heavily, then managed to stand. “Where’re the others?”
“In the air.” Tempus pointed. “Remember when we went to see X-Men: Apocalypse?”
“God! How many films have you guys been to see without me?” The Flish cried.
“Oh. Sorry. Well, anyway, have you seen it?”
“You know the Flash rescues everyone from the exploding building?”
“No. That was Quicksilver.”
“Quicksilver? I thought he was in the Avengers.”
“He is, but he’s too Russian in that so he’s in X-Men instead because God forbid any superhero not be white or British.” She looked around at the others. “Forget that. Anyway, what about it?”
“He grabs a load of people out of midair. Think you could do that?”
“No. It defies the laws of physics. I can run really quick, not fly!”
“He did it in the movie and he’s basically got your powers!”
“That’s the X-Men for you.” Captain Jaffa Cake heroically announced. “Full of plot holes.”
The other two stared at him for a second and then turned back to their conversation. “Come on Ali, I can’t hold them forever.”
“I’ll try my best.” The Flish said and exploded into a purple haze. Knowing they were no longer in her hands, Tempus released them and, with Captain Jaffa Cake, turned towards the Antithetic.
She had reached up and removed her large iron mask, revealing a simple eye mask like the ones they were mostly wearing. She raised her hand to her mouth and bit her thumb.
“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” Captain Jaffa Cake asked, realising the joke would have worked much better if she was a male teacher.
“So what if I do, sir?” She replied.
“It is a public offence, under Section 5 of the Public Order act, to display any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby. If ever you disturb our streets again, a small fine or a written warning may pay the forfeit of the peace. All legal information is accurate to the time of speaking.” He grinned.
Whilst she stared back, perplexed, Tempus stepped forwards and announced, “You have put up your weapons. Surrender before it is too late.”
“I have more weapons.” From her sides, she drew a pair of treasury tags in one hand, which she began to swirl like nunchucks. “I remember my washing blow. Draw if you be men!”
Up above, the Flish was running at the speed of sound through space, the air parting around her on either side. She wasn’t entirely sure how she was managing to run through thin air but she was sure there was an exceptionally complicated scientific explanation that would no doubt confuse the hell out of her and leave her with more questions than she ever could have had in the first place.
She raced on, grabbing the Summoner and then curving through the air to catch Lucky Cat. Moving at the speed she was, they weren’t as heavy as she expected. Again, she imagined there was no doubt some fantastical explanation for it that she didn’t know. (This isn’t lazy writing, it’s a genuine reflection of the character’s knowledge - Lazy Ed). She suddenly realised how high she’d managed to run and began to wonder how she was going to get back down again.
On street level, Captain Jaffa Cake and Tempus ran towards the Antithetic. She swung out the treasury tags, the bars of shape metal slicing through the air as they approached. Captain Jaffa Cake swung out a namesake but the treasury tag sliced straight through it, drooping Jaffery goodness all over the floor. He ducked another swing from the other side and Tempus spayed her hand, freezing it in midair and rendering it useless. Cursing, the Antithetic let go of it and pulled a glue gun from her side. She raised it and pulled the trigger. Instead of firing a steady stream of hot glue, it instead fired solid glue sticks. The Captain managed to raise another Jaffa Cake, catching a bombardment of the small cylindrical containers. Tempus froze them, picking them away and sliding them into her pockets. “Finally a solution to the Carpenter Adhesive Principle.”
From seemingly nowhere, the Antithetic produced a huge pile of workbooks which she slung in the Captain’s direction. They hit him and knocked him to the floor. Beneath the weight of four Romeo and Juliet books, three Blood Brothers books, a Poetry Anthology work book and the Poetry Anthology itself, never mind the four books for the Language paper and the Christmas Carol books plus copies of all the texts, there was no way on this Earth he could ever stand never mind walk.
“The fact that you’re wearing black implies you’re depressed and I don’t want to be homophobic but your short hair suggests you’re a boy. You could do with changing your image.”
“That was generally quite mean.” Tempus replied. “Are you resorting to just being mean now?”
“I was attempting to prey on your teenage angst. Why isn’t it working?” She frowned.
“Not all teenagers are angsty, you know? You really need to stop stereotyping.”
“Oh.” The Antithetic sighed. “That’s thirteen years of higher level English education out of the window, then.”
“Sorry.” Tempus said.
“Oh, it’s fine love. I suppose it was bound to happen at some point.” The Antithetic turned away for a second, making a sound like she was crying. Tempus frowned and stepped forwards.
“Miss, are you okay?” She asked, putting her arm around the teacher’s shoulders.
The Antithetic used this to her advantage, whipping around and hitting Tempus in the stomach with the full force of misused Social Historical Context. “Haha! My minor degree in Psychology has once more empowered me beyond you! You’ll never stop me now!”
“I think you’ll find we can.” Lucky Cat spoke from the other end of the alleyway, where she, the Summoner and the Flish were standing in truly heroic poses. Ali exploded into a purple haze, running down the alleyway and using her new found super strength to lift the books from Captain Jaffa Cake’s chest and transport him to where Tempus had fallen, slowing down to help her up too.
“You’re annoying, you purple streak.” The Antithetic cried and threw an oversized pair of scissors towards the Flish. They latched around her purple clad wrists and tightened, like cuffs.
“Damn!” The Flish cried. “I can’t run whilst carrying scissors! I’m powerless!”
“I am not.” Lucky Cat grinned. She turned to Steven. “Give me my long sword, ho!”
“Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe.” The Summoner replied.
“For God’s sake with the misquotes, Steven!” Tempus cried.
“Give me my long sword, ho!” Lucky Cat repeated.
“A crutch, a crutch!” The Summoner replied and accidentally summoned a crutch. “Damn, I can’t seem to get this right anyhow.”
“If you summon me a broadsword right now, I promise I will forgive you for earlier.” Lucky Cat replied.
There was a flash and then a broadsword was passed from his hands to hers. She took it and raised it towards the Antithetic. “Come sir, your passado!”
“You can’t kill me! I haven’t done your speaking exam with you yet!”
“What, you commit these crimes and in their place talk of exams? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Year Sevens and thee. Have at thee coward!”
She ran forwards, broadsword raised. The Antithetic danced out of the path of the swirling sword with almost infinite grace, somewhat like a paintbrush flicking away from a canvas. She continued this procession of endless twisting and turning, leaping away from the path of the blade.
“Damn. Miss’ Dodgy Dancing is making her impossible to hit.” The Flish observed, stepping over, the scissors hanging from her hands.
As Lucky Cat fell backwards, her sword broken, the Antithetic spun and fired three sets of staples out, pinning Captain Jaffa Cake, Tempus and the Summoner to the wall. The only hero free of shackles was Lucky Cat. The Antithetic turned towards her and began to trace forwards, pulling out the remote clicker from her classroom’s smart board. “I have rigged this to detonate five canisters of the highlighter fluid plotted strategically around the estate. Did you think I’d really leave all my hard work down to chance? I’m going to fly away and leave you here so you can be consumed by the end of these horrific mistakes. I suppose we shall never have the chance for your speaking exam.”
“Oh really? Let’s do it now.” Lucky Cat said and instantly wished she hadn’t. Why did she open herself up for this? She had to talk in front of her peers, to express her opinions, but she fumbled her words at the best of times and now she was under pressure. She grimaced in pain, wishing the ground would swallow her. Maybe Miss hadn’t heard her? Maybe she’d be able to get away with not doing it now.
“I believe in you.” The Summoner shouted, grinning.
It made absolutely no difference to her day except that she knew she had to do it now. Sighing, she pulled herself up and stood. Her leg was bouncing, her heart thudding. “Let me change your mind.”
“Go ahead. You know how tricky it is to get a distinction.”
Lucky Cat cleared her throat and wished a meteorite would fall and destroy her. She considered changing probability but then she realised that was suicidal. No, instead she would change the probability of her being confident. A sudden wave of confidence blasting over her, she grinned. She could Goddamn do this! “I hate incorrect Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I’m a bit of a grammar freak. (I have a tally chart going of the amount of mistakes that Steven makes when direct messaging me on Twitter.)”
He sighed. “You had to go tell the bloody English teacher that, didn’t you?”
“And I embrace that reputation.” Lucky Cat continued. “I am happy to be called a grammarist, a grammar snob, a grammar punk, a teacher’s pet and a thousand other things and I will accept all of them but one. I will not be called a grammar nazi. To me, that term is wrong. Yes, it does annoy me when people make grammatical mistakes and yes, I will correct them with the ruthlessness of an untamed panther.” She frowned a second, wondering if the AQME had been turned back on. “But, I will never deserve the name of Nazi because that suggests something else altogether. By correcting grammar, I’m not denying people’s right to speech. I’m a listener, always have been, always will be. The very fact I’m having to speak now makes me want to crawl right out of my skin. Hearing my mates have a conversation without my interjections makes me happy. The truth of the matter is, I like to correct grammar because it makes me feel uncomfortable to see the language written or spoken incorrectly, not because I don’t like seeing it at all. Regardless of how wrong it might be, all language is beautiful but it is my duty and obligation to enhance it as far as it can go. You must understand that, surely? You’re an English teacher! When you and your niece are going through the alphabet together at the weekends, do you want to hurt her if she makes a mistake? Do you want to blow her sky high just because she doesn’t know the rules that govern our great language? Whoever Aimee is, she’s innocent of any crimes except for self expression. Yes, we can say that she needs to learn how to write and speak English a bit better but it’s our job to teach her how to, not mock her or punish her for it. That’s the basics of education. Not to punish the weak and award the strong but to allow the weak to reach the point of the strong and to push the strong even further so that everyone enjoys learning and reaches their full potential. And you can’t enjoy learning if you’re being punished constantly for not thinking in the same way as someone else. So, join with me, join with the next generation of educators and remember one simple thing: The point of teaching is to share your passion for a subject done well, not your hatred for it done wrong. No. Done incorrectly.” She smiled. “Please Miss. Don’t make a mistake that can’t be fixed with green pens.”
Mrs Carpenter stared at Lucky Cat for a few seconds and then dropped her remote clicker. “Martha.” She whispered, and then fell onto the floor unconscious.
“Did she just say Martha?” Ali frowned. “Hang on, isn’t that her first name?”
“I don’t like teacher’s having first names.” Lucky Cat shivered, strolling over and crushing the clicker underfoot.
“Maybe she thought by saying ‘Martha’ she’d somehow end the fighting?” Captain Jaffa Cake sighed. “Nah, that wouldn’t even work in the movies.”
“I can’t believe she was going to blow up this entire estate.” Tempus said, shaking her head.
“I know. She’s a ‘flipping’ head case, our Ma’.” The Summoner laughed.
“That was an acceptable misquote.” Tempus replied. If there had been a camera, she would have turned to it and winked, “Don’t swear, kids. Not even in quote marks.”
In the far distance, there was the sound of approaching sirens. Ali frowned, pulling down her mask. “Nothing happened. Why are police cars coming?”
“We crashed a blimp into a pond.” Steven said, pulling down his mask.
“Oh yeah!” Ali cried. “I’m so silly. Imagine that, superheroes forgetting ridiculous levels of collateral damage following a major battle! That’d never happen.”
“We should probably get out of here.” Freya asked. “Unless you want to talk us out of this, Cap?”
There was a flash, a bang and then Captain Jaffa Cake was gone, replaced by Chris in an oversized suit. “No, I don’t quite think I’ve got the right charisma modifier for that.”
“Right, well, let’s be off then. Sophie, do you reckon you could increase the probability of us being let down?” Freya asked.
Sophie nodded and the probability of the staples disappearing from around their wrists and reappearing around Mrs Carpenter’s became certain. She was pinned to the floor and so probably only moderately difficult for the local police to catch. The others free, they set off in the direction of Gilliam High, where a secret passage just outside the grounds would be able to deliver them to the Cairns Cave.
As they walked, Steven trailed back to talk to Sophie. “That speech was incredible. I’m really proud of you.”
“Thanks.” She smiled. “Thanks for believing in me.”
“I like believing in you,” he replied, “because, unlike God, I can actually see the effects.”
“You really don’t do yourself any favours.” She laughed.
“I’m sorry.” He replied. “For being a prat and never thinking before I speak. It’s a habit of mine, if you haven’t noticed.”
“It’s fine.” She smiled. “I like it most of the time.”
“Does that mean we’re friends again?”
“We didn’t stop being friends.”
“Friendly hug?” He grinned.
“Double high five finger guns?”
He nodded and they double high fived then shot finger guns at each other. “Ah, well, all’s well that ends well.”
“Trying telling that to the ducks.” Ali said, pointing to the small army of birds angrily plodding away from the remains of the pond.
Gilliam High School. Chemistry teacher Miss Francis was walking through the secret technician’s room in the heart of S-Block when she spotted Mr Coin, the Astrophysicist and general Supply Teacher standing in the corner, erratically playing his electric violin. “Ah, Jon, I was looking for you! I saw some students in the Lunch Hall who wanted to join your Dungeons and Dragons club.”
“Oh they did, did they?” He asked, chuckling. “How fantastic. Which students?”
“Chris Rogers and his little gang. Oh, and Ali Grant too. Those lot.”
He stopped playing his violin and rubbed his hands together. The lighting of the room flickered, as if they sensed his mood. “Fantastic. Quite fantastic. My plans are all coming into fruition at last…”
He began chuckling madly. “Muhahahaha!” He laughed.
Miss Francis left him to go and mark some books. She didn’t think anything of his laughter; he’d probably just got to a funny bit in the constant QI repeats that sidled along his brain. Funny chap, that Jon Coin. You could never quite tell what he was going to do next.
When he heard the door closed, signalling she was gone, he stopped laughing and opened a small portal in the quantum foam. “They are coming, my lord.” He whispered. “Your prey are coming to you.”
And in another reality, the Camel God began to laugh too.